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Late Thursday night, news broke that UFC Lightweight champion and undefeated fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov has officially retired-- at least in the eyes of the UFC.
After his win over Justin Gaethje to retain the 155-pound belt, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from the sport.
“This was my last fight,” Nurmagomedov said in the post-fight interview. “No way am I going to come here without my father…”
A few months ago, his father and coach died. This was likely a catalyst for Nurmagomedov stepping away from the spotlight.
The internet went crazy over this announcement and many fans took the time to appreciate all that he had given to MMA.
However, there was at least one person who refused to accept Nurmagomedov’s retirement; UFC President Dana White. For months, White has set up meetings with Nurmagomedov to try and talk him into fighting again. It is hard to blame him, as Nurmagomedov is 29-0 and was a huge Pay-Per-View draw.
These chats didn’t seemed to stick, and White never admitted defeat until Thursday. Now, Nurmagomedov can get some closure and go out on top.
On Thursday night, White tweeted a selfie with Nurmagomedov saying that Nurmagomedov is “officially” retired despite White’s best efforts for keeping him in the game.
Although Nurmagomedov will most likely never enter the Octagon as a fighter again, he will still be involved with the sport. He continues to coach and corner the Dagestani up-and-comers as they break onto the scene.
Following this announcement were the first reports about who would fight for the now vacant Lightweight belt. No. 3 Charles Oliveira and No. 4 Michael Chandler will duke it out at UFC 262 on May 15.
As first reported by ESPN, this matchup will be for the vacant strap and features two of the top contenders, both coming off wins. It is interesting that No. 1 contender Dustin Poirier is not in the running right now, but he has been vocal about his preference for a trilogy fight with No. 6 Conor McGregor.
There is now a new era at UFC Lightweight. Nurmagomedov is going to go down as one of the best fighters of all time, and someone will have to step up in his place. It is an exciting time for fans, as there are a number of top contenders that will have their shot over the next few years.
Before the title fight at UFC 262, the promotion will be back in action for UFC 260: Miocic vs. Ngannou and UFC 261: Masvidal vs. Usman, both on ESPN+ PPV.